Flyers-Penguins Rivalry Reaching Breaking Point

Image courtesy of content.usatoday.comThis isn’t a game anymore. This isn’t a series anymore. This is a battle between two teams that hate each other.

This is not the type of hate that is used by ESPN to promote a Red Sox/Yankees game. No, this is a hate that is visible on the ice. This is a hate that is spoken about publicly by the players. This is a hate that the NHL has no control of.

Game 3 started out like Games 1 and 2 – Penguins score early and the Flyers fight back. Except there was something different in the air at the Wells Fargo Center in Philadelphia.

The game really began when the Penguins’ superstar center hit the Flyers’ Jakub Voracek’s glove as Voracek went to pick it up. From there, Kris Letang of the Penguins beat Kimmo Timonen viciously. Claude Giroux would land a few punches on Crosby before the refs broke that up. The play would only get chippier.

Cheap shots by Arron Asham and James Neal led to match penalties and misconducts. The more cheap shots, the angrier the Penguins got that they could not rattle the Flyers. The Penguins, the “model franchise,” were unraveling before our eyes, and they were using every dirty tactic in the book.

After Game 3, Penguins Owner and CEO Mario Lemieux was quoted as saying, “We, as a league, must do a better job of protecting the integrity of the game and safety of our players. We must make it clear that those kinds of actions will not be tolerated and will be met with meaningful disciplinary action.”

When was that from, you ask? February 13, 2011. Hello, paging Mr. Shanahan…

Well, Mr. Shanahan answered the call and gave Neal a one game suspension and Asham a four game ban, essentially ending his series.

Now don’t get me wrong, the Flyers absolutely play a little dirty, but not to the extreme that the Penguins have. Peter Laviolette did put Zac Rinaldo on the ice with just under four minutes left in Game 3. While specifically watching Rinaldo, I saw him attempt – and miss – a high elbow. Rinaldo was eventually called for two penalties, and escorted to the dressing room.

Game 4 provided more fuel to the fire. The Flyers came out on fire, scoring a power play goal two minutes into the game. Despite their quick start, they would end up getting embarrassed by the Penguins, losing 10-3.

In that loss, the Flyers – specifically the aforementioned Rinaldo – got dirty. Rinaldo received a double minor, a 10-minute misconduct, and a game misconduct for his actions in the second period by crosschecking Penguins defenseman Zbynek Michalek in the face. Mr. Rinaldo should be expecting a phone call from Mr. Shanahan for his actions.

The refs had lost control of this series after Game 3 and did their best to regain that control by calling a tight Game 4. Still, I ask, has Dan Blysma lost control of his team or did he instruct his players to go after “kill” shots? If he did, then the NHL needs to step in further. Yes, Asham received a four game ban and Neal got one, but after Shea Weber’s WWE incident with Henrik Zetterberg’s head, Mr. Shanahan needs to address the players sooner rather than later.

The rivalry that has been brewing between the Penguins and Flyers has continued to mount since the Penguins drafted Sidney Crosby in 2005. Immediately anointed as the “Next One” around the league, he was the next one for the Flyers to hate. While Crosby has brought the Penguins back to prominence, the Flyers continued to excel. Finally, both are successful. The Penguins used the Flyers as their stepping-stone to the Stanley Cup in both 2008-2009. That only fueled the rivalry and that hate that continues today.

The history between these two great franchises is long. These current teams hate each other, and we’re seeing the result of that. Let’s just hope that these players understand that it is only a game and that they understand that before someone gets severely hurt.